Melanie Leech, director general of the FDF, said that senior executives at leading UK food and beverage businesses were asked by management consultancy Deloitte last year what they thought were the major consumer trends affecting their companies.
At that time, health came out as number one.
However that survey was carried out before the major economic upheaval caused by the collapse of several investment banks, and before the ‘credit crunch’ really started to be felt by consumers – although the food chain was already feeling the pinch of energy and raw material costs.
“If you were to undertake the same survey today price would be the major theme likely to emerge – we are already seeing clear evidence of consumer spending patterns changing to reflect their drive to reduce costs. And as ever,industry is responding.”
But Leech was adamant that this will not result in the industry compromising on health for the sake of delivering cheaper products.
“I don’t in any sense want to give you the impression that the foot will come off the accelerator - our commitment is longstanding and sustained.”
Leech was speaking at the ‘Tackling obesity: Working towards a healthier nation’ conference in London last week, in which she outlined ways that food and drink makers are responding to the gauntlet laid down by the government’s £372m obesity strategy, unveiled in January.
She said that, since 2004, £15bn worth of their products have been reformulated to have lower levels of salt, fat or sugar.
A further £11.5 bn worth of products have been launched in lower salt, fat or sugar variants.